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Editorial: Let Park Service take reins of Valles Caldera

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Just a few hours from the Albuquerque metro area and Santa Fe lies one of the world’s largest volcanic calderas and a nature preserve of unparalleled beauty.

The Valles Caldera National Preserve was created when the U.S. government purchased the former Baca Ranch for $100 million in 2000. Its sweeping valleys, streams and mountain peaks make it a paradise for horseback riding, hiking, fishing and hunting with bow, rifle or camera.

The preserve is managed by a special presidential-appointed trust charged with operating it as a working ranch, protecting its natural and cultural resources, providing recreational opportunities and becoming financially self-sustaining by 2015.

New Mexico Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have reintroduced a bill to bring its management under the National Park Service. Udall and former Sen. Jeff Bingaman championed the cause last year, but that bill did not make it through Congress. The new bill cites inconsistent funding, a need for infrastructure improvements and concerns the 2015 goal would not be met.

The senators and others want the Park Service to make the preserve more accessible for recreation. As a publicly owned treasure, its owners — U.S. citizens — should get to enjoy it responsibly. There should be clear boundaries for protecting its unique resources and sacred sites.

The Valles Caldera meets criteria for inclusion in the national park system, and the National Park Service is the right agency to manage it. Congress should not allow this sensible solution to languish in a bureaucratic wilderness.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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